Elections laws cause international tug of war

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(JOSEPH ALLCHIN) British prime minister Gordon Brown has labelled the Burmese election laws “restrictive” and “unfair”, and has called for an urgent arms embargo on Burma, perhaps the final and most potent feather left in the sanctions bucket.

He also claims to have “written to the UN Secretary General to call for an urgent meeting in New York to discuss these developments”, although bizarrely Ban Ki-moon reportedly did not receive the letter.

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At the same time representatives of Burma’s military were convening with other members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in the Philippines.

With no sense of irony, the junta’s foreign minister, Nyan Win, lectured the gathering on tolerance. “I hardly need to stress the importance of harbouring mutual respect among people of different faiths”, he said, and needless to say the Rohingya delegate in the Burmese team got lost at sea.

With an accurate reading of history and military imprecision in the art of international relations, meanwhile, Nyan Win stated that “if we fail to show respect and discriminate against other religions, conflicts and tensions among peoples will linger on. We fully agree that tolerance is a fundamental value of international relations.”

The Manila meeting of the NAM also petitioned Ban Ki-moon, this time over the good offices interference in domestic affairs. It stated that the UN does not have jurisdiction over human rights in a sovereign state.

That position was clearly rejected by the Human Rights Watch, who said in a statement on the group’s website that the UN “should not delay the setting up of an international inquiry to address possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma.”

Nyan Win is likely to meet the Philippines foreign minister and NAM host, Alberto Romulo, on Wednesday, where Romulo will likely criticise the junta for effectively lying to all its neighbours after promising ‘free and fair elections’, and then not delivering them.

Romulo made a statement to the same effect on Monday, saying that election laws were “contrary to the roadmap to democracy that they have pledged to [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] and to the world”.

The Philippines, like Gordon Brown, has repeatedly called for the release of prime minster-elect Aung San Suu Kyi, but at the UN Human Rights Council, Burma and co-hermit-in-chief, North Korea, defended their “rights to sovereignty”, with China also wading in to defend the two pariahs.

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